Peaceful Learning

Home Schooling

Schools are back in business this autumn, but do they carry out their business with best practices?

I thought of an old tune that I learned as a child. Thankfully, only some of the words reflect my personal experience: “School days, school days / Dear old Golden Rule days / Reading and ‘riting and ‘rithmetic / Taught to the tune of the hickory stick…” is an American song from 1907 by Will D. Cobb and Gus Edwards. Teaching the Golden Rule has an ancient past – going back to Chinese philosopher Confucius who lived in the 5th century BC. Whipping also has a long past.

As a school psychologist and family therapist, I have heard too many stories of child abuse attached to “learning” lessons. This punish-‘em-to-make-‘em-learn-a-lesson approach has no research to suggest that it is a good idea. Hitting children to instill lessons is old-school teaching. Imagine this: one Massachusetts schoolhouse built in 1793 had a built-in whipping post in the floor for tying up wayward children for flogging. Corporal punishment in schools is still legal in 19 U.S. states today.

Negative developmental outcomes of corporal punishment is a present topic. In 1989 The Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations, but only 4 countries prohibited physical punishment in all settings then. Over 30 years later, only 63 countries have fully prohibited corporal punishment. Only 14% of children worldwide are fully protected by law from physical punishment.

Meanwhile, the silent pandemic swept through public and private school halls in 2020. This year a newer broom, the Delta variant of COVID-19, sweeps hallways and classrooms with even more punishing effects for children. Many students become home-schoolers overnight when parents (and often, grandparents) have no time to brush up their reading, ‘writing, and ‘rithmetic skills. I wonder how often these newbie teachers resort to hitting methods when their precious children are off-task. Many of these adults line up their laptop computers at the same kitchen table with their children to perform work tasks for their new work-at-home jobs.

We need homes and schools to feature an entrance sign of a Norman Rockwell mosaic that hangs in the United Nations in New York. Entitled Golden Rule, the mosaic features 65 adults and children representing different religions, races and cultures with these words imprinted: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This is not just the business of the UN, but also of homes, schools and workplaces everywhere.

We have not yet whipped the COVID-19 virus. The Golden Rule can help out.

Pearls of Peace (PoP) quiz:

14. Did the adults in your childhood attempt to “teach” you by hitting you?

15. What are key lessons you hold onto from your childhood days?

By Janis Johnston

Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D., has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Boston University. She has worked with children, families, and groups (ages 3-83) with presenting issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and relationship concerns. She initially worked as a school psychologist in public schools and was awarded School Psychology Practitioner of the Year for Region 1 in Illinois for her innovative work. She was a supervising psychologist at a mental health center, an employee-assistance therapist and a trainer for agencies prior to having a family therapy private practice. Recipient of the 2011 Founder’s Award for her dedication to the parenting education of Parenthesis Family Center (now called New Moms), and the 2002 Community Spirit Award from Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence shelter and education center, Johnston is an active participant in numerous volunteer activities supporting children and families in her community. A frequent presenter at national psychology and educational conferences, Johnston has published journal articles, book chapters, and two books -- It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Parent Development (2013, hardback; 2019, paperback) and Midlife Maze: A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery after Loss (2017, hardback; 2019, paperback). In addition to augmenting and supporting personal growth in families, Johnston is a Master Gardener and loves nurturing growth in the plants in her yard.


  1. Communal effervescence is a powerful thing…. and we’ve experienced it a number of times in our lifetime. When it’s on a larger scale it feels like it’s more often been on the sorrow side. I like your inclusion of ways to feel it positively and on a smaller scale but with more active responsibility. Your follow up with the Golden Rule is another way to feel the effervescence!


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